alexvanhalendrums.com

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"In '82, I wanted to try something different, so what we did was take different lengths of tube which projected from each kick drum along the lines of church organ pipes. Each different length would accentuate a different frequency and we isolated the ones that we liked and pumped those out front. We also miked the batter head so there would be a balance between what comes out the front of the drum and the actual impact of the pedal hitting the head. I use wooden beaters, and to keep them from going through the head, I put a little pad of leather on it so it gets the same attack. You don't lose any punch and the heads don't break." - Alex Van Halen

 

Alex Van Halen 1982

In 1982, Van Halen released their next album, 'Diver Down' and the 'Hide Your Sheep' tour soon followed. Alex put together yet another unique new kit in a similar fashion, with the six bass drums and tom configuration, to the striped black and white Vista Lite kit, although no Octobans were included. This time it appears he went back to wooden shells (probably maple) in black wrap, and also likely reinforced with fiberglass on the insides as was done with the previous kit. The two joined pairs of main bass drums however had different lengths and diameters of tube, with the outer ends cut at an angle, projecting out of the front of them. The gaps around the tubes at the front of the drums were filled in with what looks like grey rubber foam. The extra two single bass drums are again attached to the main ones via 'accordion' style tubes in white, and with clear CS Black Dot front heads on them. To the left of the kit are a pair of timbale type concert toms. The Pearl Vari-Pitch toms also returned and were set up as was done previously, above the floor toms. The drum sizes appear to be one pair of 26"x14" bass drums (right foot) and one pair of 24"x14" bass drums joined together, 12", 13" & 14" toms in standard depths with the bottom heads and rims removed, 16"x16" and 16"x18" (or possibly 16"x16" & 16"x20") floor toms. At one point, Alex also had a pair of 6" and 8" power toms set up to the left, above the other toms (see photo futher below). The two outer smaller bass drums are both possibly 20"x16".

Electronic drums, particularly Simmons, were starting to become more popular in the early 1980's and Alex for the first time incorporated them into his kit (see back shot photo below) with three set up in between the floor toms and the Pearl Vari-Pitch toms. Alex also had a pair of black timbali type drums to the left of the kit. All clear CS Black Dot batter heads with bottoms removed, all Paiste cymbals (mixture of 2002's and the then new 'Rude" range) and a cowbell next to the hi-hat. A mixture of TAMA and Ludwig stands.

 

Alex Van Halen 1982

Alex Van Halen 1982

Alex Van Halen 1982

Alex Van Halen 1982

Alex Van Halen 1982


The additional 6" and 8" power toms (above the smaller toms) can be seen in the above photo.

 

Alex Van Halen 1982
The Simmons drums set up in between the floor and Vari-Pitch toms.

 


Alex Van Halen 1983

"[For this kit] We're putting some radial horns in the front of the bass drums. You put a radial horn in there and it will be hooked up electronically just to punch a little more highs out in the stage area in front. The batter head will be miked, the front will be miked and we'll get a balance out of that. That way, it will almost be like a pre-mix. There will be a mix that goes into the thing before the sound man out front will have a chance to, again, accentuate the proper frequencies because all halls are different. Also, this year I changed to power toms, the longer ones. They seem to have a little more resonance and depth and if you tune them just a little bit higher than the drum actually should be tuned, you get a cross between a regular tom and a deeper sounding one." - Alex Van Halen

 

Alex Van Halen 1983

On May 29, 1983, Van Halen headlined their biggest show to date, the US Festival and Alex's experimentation with unique drum set up ideas and concepts continued. The next kit he put together was also used at the US Festival show and had two main new features. One was his first time use of Power Toms, which became very common in the 1980's and 90's among many drummers. The second was his experimentation with radial horns built into the bass drums. These horns (Altec Lansing type) were fixed inside of the bass drums and projected out of the front of them through a rectangular cut out of the front heads, They were hooked up electronically, to be mixed with the miked up acoustic sound of the drum. Alex's original concept for this kit was to continue with the six bass drum configuration of the previous kits but for the 28"x26" right foot bass drum, he decided it just sounded good without the extra one attached to it. The left one, also 28"x26", is connected to a 14"x24" via an 'accordion' style white tube. The toms are 12", 13", 14" power toms and the floor toms are 18" and 20". Once again the Pearl Vari-Pitch roto toms and Simmons drums are at the right of the kit. The snare was alternated between a Tama 6.5"x14" rosewood shell and Ludwig 6.5"x14" steel shell. The distinctive 'lips and mouth' images used on the drum finish were possibly color printed on self-adhesive vinyl sheets and adhered to the drum shells. Internally, the drum shells were also likely reinforced with fiberglass. The stands are a mixture of Ludwig and Tama heavy duty, double braced.

The cymbals are all Paiste with a mixture of 2002's and the recently released at the time, heavy duty 'Rude' range. The set up is a 24" 2002 ride, 20" 2002 china, 20" 2002 heavy, 2 x 20" medium rides (used as crashes), 20" Rude, 18" Rude, 15" hi-hats are a mixture of a 2002 top and a Rude bottom.

A few weeks after the above photo was taken, the two front main bass drum heads were cut out but left on the third one (see photo below).

Alex Van Halen 1983

Alex Van Halen 1983

Alex Van Halen 1983

Alex Van Halen 1983 _Alex Van Halen 1983

Alex Van Halen 1983
Alex is featured with this drum kit and his first interview with Modern Drummer magazine in the October 1983 issue.

Altec Lansing Alex Van Halen 1983
Altec Lansing Radial horns, which are the same type Alex used in his bass drums.

 

Alex Van Halen 1983
Interesting story regarding where this kit ended up since its use in 1983. At first it was kept in storage by Alex for a number of years but it seems he eventually donated them to be put up for sale at an AIDS benefit in 1992. Pittsburgh banking heir Matthew Mellon bought the kit for $32,000. He then had the kit held in storage via a friend on the west coast whilst Mellon lived on the east coast in New York. According to Mellon in early 2016, he wanted to give the kit to his son and contacted his friend on the west coast who reported that the kit had become water damaged and were thrown out. A few weeks later, another friend discovered on Google that the drums were now on display at the Hard Rock Cafe in Seoul, Korea, and that the Hard Rock purchased them for $12,500 in 2013. Mellon has since taken this up with The Los Angeles Police Department and the outcome is not known, however the drums are still currently on display at the Hard Rock Cafe in Seoul. At one point in around 2013 and before the Hard Rock Chain acquired it, the kit was put up for sale on ebay, but failed to sell as it did not reach the reserve price. The above photo is the one displayed in the ebay ad showing most of the kit (minus the extra bass drum and radial horns among other things). The insides of the bass drums were also autographed by Alex.

 

Alex Van Halen 1983
The kit in part acquired by the Hard Rock Cafe chain and put on display at the HRC Seoul, Korea.




"I kept hammering Don [Landee, engineer] and I said, drums make sound omnidirectionally, and I understand it's difficult to capture, but you gotta put the mics back a little bit. Of course when you do that you get a problem with phase cancellation and you have to work on it, and the drummer has a responsibility to keep the levels right between the cymbals and the kick and the other drums. The point of close miking was to expedite the recording process, and I guess some people don't think drums are as important as drummers do. It's funny because the drums are the only acoustic instrument on our records - you change the drums and it changes the whole sound of the record. So now we record the drums from a distance. Now on the toms and kick we typically use Sennheisers 421s up close, and a shotgun for the snare. And then room mics, of course. On the kick there's a mic inside, one on the front head, and one about 5 feet away. We don't use all the mics in the mixes. We don't layer the songs, we all play together on the rhythm tracks - it's always a crap shoot - so it's better to have some of these extra mics on tape." - Alex Van Halen

 

Alex Van Halen 1983

In January 1984, Van Halen released their sixth studio album titled '1984' (or 'MCMLXXXIV') which became hugely successful around the world, especially with the hit single 'Jump'. Alex had, by the time the video clip was done for 'Jump', put together a new kit, however it seems this version of the kit was short lived and only appeared publicly in the Jump video as it would change by the time the '1984' tour commenced.

With this kit, Alex went back to the six bass drum configuration (four bass drums joined together in pairs for the main ones and two single bass drums for the outer connecting ones). The main right foot one is two 14"x26" bass drums joined together and the left foot one is two 14"x24" also joined together. The outer ones are single 14"x24" bass drums connected with white 'accordion' style tubes. All the bass drums have radial horns wired up electronically. The bass drums appear to be black finish Ludwig maple (reinforced with fiberglass on the insides) and customized with square shaped mirror like reflective pieces glued to them. Five REMO rototoms are used for the rack toms & sizes are probably 6", 8", 10", 12" and 14". Another larger 16" rototom attached to a foot pedal (like a timpani drum) is mounted to the left of kit near the hi-hat. The floor toms are the wooden shell type with the same finish as the bass drums and probably 18" and 20". All clear CS Black Dot heads and cymbals all Paiste 2002's and Rudes. The stands are a mixture of TAMA and Ludwig heavy duty double braced.

It is very likely that this kit (or at least the rototoms) was used in the recording of some of the '1984' album, as the distinct rototom sound can be heard in the drum fills in tracks like 'Jump' and 'I'll Wait'. Also, according to engineer Don Landee, Alex used Simmons drums for the bass drums on the album.

An interesting note on the bass drums and according to Todd Trent from Ludwig, Alex had plywood glued to the inside of the batter heads and were triggered (with a Simmons SDSV brain). This was apparently the case for the kits he used on the '1984', '5150' and 'OU812' tours.

Alex Van Halen 1983
Alex during a break from the 'Jump' video shoot.

 

Alex Van Halen 1983
Alex dampens his snare drum batter head (Clear CS Black Dot) with gaffa tape in a triangular fashion, as can be clearly seen in the above photo.

 


“I read some old Buddy Rich interviews,” Alex says, in reply to a question about technique. “When asked, ‘Do you warm up before you play?’ Buddy said, ‘Yes, I take my hands out of my pockets.’ No matter how questions get answered, it boils down to this essence: When you make music you try to be as in the moment as possible. Of course, you rehearse. But there’s enough room to make every night different.” - Alex Van Halen

 

Alex Van Halen 1984

Alex Van Halen 1984

Alex Van Halen 1984

Alex Van Halen 1984

By the time Van Halen embarked on their hugely successful '1984' tour, Alex had made some significant modifications to the kit seen in the Jump video clip. The rototoms and floor toms were all replaced with electronic Simmons drums. Tama Octobans decorated in the same finish as the bass drums were set up in front of the Simmons drums in a v-shape configuration, and were probably mostly for visual effect to make the kit look 'bigger' or fuller on stage because of the bare look of the flat Simmons drum design. The stands are a mixture of Tama and Ludwig heavy duty double braced.

 

Alex Van Halen 1984
The above photo is of a dress rehearsal for the 1984 tour which shows the kit in an earlier version with just a couple of clear octobans out front. As mentioned above, Alex probably thought the kit looked too bare with just the Simmons drums as toms and at first he added some clear octobans before finally adding more (seven in total out front), with the same distinctive finish as the bass drums had.

 

Alex Van Halen 1984
The photo above is a replica of the 1984 kit put together by a fan. Great job and effort!

 


 

"[on being the consumate showman and adding a flying drum riser to the show] "Yeah, well you know it seems that it comes with the territory. It’s either burn the damn drum set down or do something. I guess you could call it the show aspect. People who say that it’s bullshit and doesn’t account for anything, well, the next time you get up in the morning, why do you comb your hair, why do bother shaving, why do you bother even having your drums cleaned, why do you bother even having a different color surface on it? It’s all show. I think the important thing to keep in mind is don’t let that be the main point of attraction, you know. Yeah, so the drum riser goes up. We tried it once going down into the ground. Sometimes it wouldn’t come back up. The people who sell you this stuff will tell you it can do everything but the windows. And then when it comes time for you to try it out, “Oh, well you didn’t tell me that you had to push up the weight of this too. Well, you mean you’re going to be on it? Oh, no this thing is only rated at 500 pounds. You’ve already got 1,500 on there. What are you doing?” We used to have this thing, on the 5150 tour, where the drums were supposed to be completely hidden from view. The audience saw nothing but stage; everything was underground. Then all of a sudden, boom, the stuff comes out of the ground. All except my drums! And it happened, I’d say, probably about ten times out of 20." - Alex Van Halen

 

Alex Van Halen 1986

In 1985 David Lee Roth left Van Halen to pursue a solo career and the band invited Sammy Hagar to replace him as the singer (as well as second guitar at times). In 1986 Van Halen released their seventh studio album '5150' with Sammy and toured in support of it on the '5150' tour. Alex recorded the whole 5150 album using Simmons drums for toms as well as bass drums but used real cymbals (Paiste 2002's) and a 6.5"x14" wooden rosewood snare. The album and tour were a huge success and Alex's drum kit for this tour was similar in design to the '1984' kit. The bass drums were a chrome finish and possibly either wooden shells with a chrome wrap or stainless steel shells. Sizes are the same as the '1984' kit with a joined pair of 14"x26" bass drums for the right foot and a joined pair of 14" x 24" for the left. The outer bass drums were again, single 14"x24" connected with the 'accordion' style tubes as well as two smaller red tubes on each side. All the bass drums had radial horns built into them. The toms were all Simmons drums with seven clear 8" Tama octobans out front. All Paiste 2002 cymbals and 50" gong. The stands are a mixture of Tama and Ludwig heavy duty double braced.

 

Alex Van Halen 1986

Alex Van Halen 1986

 


"Well, the first thing is to get the drums to sound the way I want them from where I'm sitting. They have to sound right before you put up mics, a lot of people don't realize that. It's also important to bring the drums to the recording studio a good 12 hours before the session, and to make sure the temperature and humidity in the recording room don't change between load-in and recording. This way the drums can get aclamated to the studio environment, and they're more likely to hold their tuning." - Alex Van Halen

 

Alex Van Halen 1988

In May 1988 Van Halen released their eighth studio album titled 'OU812' and in September they embarked on the 'OU812' tour. For this tour Alex put together what became the biggest kit that he has used (to date) in his career. He also returned to using wooden shelled, double headed toms but still had Simmons drums and octobans (clear) set up around the kit. The drum kit was set up on a round drum riser in a 360 degree design. The whole kit design is essentially three kits next to each other on a round drum riser in a circle configuration with a single drum stool at the centre so that Alex can swing around to play any one of them and the riser would also spin around to face the audience. Neil Peart from the band Rush had a similar concept in 1984 (Grace Under Pressure Tour) with two kits, an acoustic kit on one side and a Simmons set up 180 degrees on the other. Alex's round drum riser also had lights encircling it and during the crescendo of his drum solo, the riser would 'elevate' up above the stage with the lights flashing, giving the appearance of a 'UFO' taking off.

The Ludwig maple drums are in white finish and it appears the bass drums were custom made in one long length with no visible joins instead of two drums joined or bolted together as Alex had done in the past. Six of these bass drums were used with this set up and all fitted with either black or white radial horns although some had a different type to the Altec Lansing ones used previously. The front heads were also either black or white with a reverse color Ludwig logo. The toms on one side of the kit (the side he would mainly use in the show) were three power rack toms (possibly 12", 13" and 14" all on RIMS isolation mounts), a 16"x18" floor tom and some clear 8" octobans in front. The second side had electronic toms (Simmons) and the third had North 'curved' toms (8", 10", 12" and 14") along with a 16" curved floor tom. Alex acquired the North toms from the Pro Drumshop in Hollywood, California. The bass drums are set up as three pairs and not connected to any outer ones. Each of the three 'kits' also had their own 8"x14" Tama Rosewood snare drum.

For this kit Alex also had internal microphones permanently mounted inside the shells of the power toms with an XLR mic socket on the outer shell so they can be 'plugged' in to the P.A. system. The bass drums also had mics placed in front of the radial horns.

The cymbals used are listed in the Paiste ad further below which inluded 2002's and 3000's. A 50" Paiste Symphonic gong is set up just off the edge of the spinning riser so it stayed in the same position whilst the kits were rotated. The stands are mostly Ludwig heavy duty double braced and Alex also used a Gibraltar round or curved rack system and clamps for this kit.

 

Alex Van Halen 1988

Alex Van Halen 1988 _Alex Van Halen 1988

Alex Van Halen 1988

Alex Van Halen 1988
The power toms showing the RIMS isolation system mounts and mic XLR plug for the built in mic.

 

Alex Van Halen 1988

Alex Van Halen 1988

Alex Van Halen 1988
Paiste ad in 1988 with this kit featured along with its specs.

 


"[On the recording of the 'For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge' album with producer Andy Johns] we used 23 mikes on the kit. Nothing was any closer than maybe six inches away. I actually wanted the stuff further away, but Andy being an engineer-typing human, you know, “ I want to little bit of isolation, I want a little bit of control.” So, no you can’t patch. You can’t glue two of them together, because you’d hear it. It’s different if you mike up close or use an electronic device to make a simulated room sound, yeah, then you could do it." - Alex Van Halen

 

Alex Van Halen 1991

After the OU812 tour, Van Halen took some time off and then came back in 1991 with a new studio album titled 'For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge'. For his next drum kit, Alex scaled down his set up from the enormous kits of the past, to a six-piece Ludwig maple set in chrome wrap finish that consisted of what appears to be a single 20"x22" bass drum (with a double kick pedal), 8"x10" and 8"x12" toms, 16"x16" and 16"x18" floor toms, as well as a 8"x14" metal snare. He also alternated this snare with a Tama Artstar snare. Alex used a customized curved rack system designed by Gregg Voelker, for this kit for the rack toms and cymbal stands. In keeping with something from his past kits, Alex had two curved metal chrome pipes coming out of the sides of the bass drum and into the drum riser for visuals. Paiste cymbals are a mixture of 2002's and Signatures along with a Paiste 50" gong.

 

Alex Van Halen 1991

Alex Van Halen 1991

 

Alex Van Halen 1991
Alex is featured with this drum kit and his second interview with Modern Drummer magazine in the July 1993 issue.

 

Alex Van Halen 1991
By the time the 1993 Modern Drummer issue with Alex was published which was when Van Halen were going out on their summer tour, he had switched back to two bass drums (see photo below).

 


Alex back to two bass drums (circa 1992/93)

 

Alex Van Halen 1991
Alex in an ad for Ludwig circa 1991 with a 5-piece chrome finish kit.

 


"Well, I played the elaborate kits because the stages were so big. The kit always looked small, so I started adding stuff. The one thing I didn’t want to do was put up a bunch of drums that I didn’t play. I remember when we used to open for Black Sabbath, Bill [Ward] had a rather extensive drum kit. There were times when he wouldn’t even touch half of ’em. So when we did the video for “Pound cake”–we were pressured for time and the drums were somewhere else–I just got a small kit together because that’s how the song was recorded. It was just basically a four-piece. Ed looks at me and says, “Hey, I can see you now. Why don’t you take this kind of thing on tour with you?” I say, “Okay fine.” And he goes, “I have six strings, you take six. That was it. Basically that’s all you need anyway." - Alex Van Halen

 

Alex Van Halen 1995

In January 1995, Van Halen released their tenth studio album titled 'Balance' and their last with Sammy Hagar. More info and photos are still being sourced regarding this kit but it seems for the tour, Alex went back to double bass drums and actually had two kits. One was with a dark green finish that appeared in the Ludwig ads at the time (see photo above) and the other in Wine Red finish (photos below), which was of a similar configuration and was used on the tour. The kits themselves are Ludwig Maples with double headed power toms. This kit also featured four octobons and two Latin Percussion timbales. Alex also utilized the curved rack system again for the hardware. All Paiste cymbals, mostly 2002's, with a 50" gong. Alex at this time also started adding a cooling fan, set up on the left side of the kit (as can be seen in the top photo).

 

Alex Van Halen 1995

Alex Van Halen 1995

Alex Van Halen 1995

Alex Van Halen 1995

Alex Van Halen 1995

Alex Van Halen 1995

Alex Van Halen 1995

 

It was also around this time in 1995 that Alex started using in-ear monitors and actually in a way, planted the seed in them becoming common place for live artists and bands nowadays. During Van Halen's rehearsals for their 'Balance' tour, Alex approached their then sound engineer Jerry Harvey, and complained that the noise on stage was too much. The massive volume from the stage monitors and speakers were damaging his ears and making it difficult for the band members to hear one another. Harvey began tinkering and looking for components to solve the problem. In Japan he found tiny electrical components, and in the United States he found a tiny speaker designed for a pacemaker. He created a tiny in-ear speaker system that connected to a small receiver on Alex's belt via thin cables. The receiver then picked up the wireless signal from Harvey's mixing board. The in-ear monitors had two small speakers to separate output volume into low and high frequencies for bass and treble, and they fit into shells that were impressions of Alex's ears. The in-ear monitors also blocked out ambient noise, and according to Alex Van Halen, "It was like night and day." Jerry Harvey went on to create the successful 'Ultimate Ears' and 'JH Audio' in-ear montoring systems used by many artists and bands today.

 


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